Spring in Summerland
Season of the Witch, Book II
© 2017 April L Wood
Publishing May 3rd, through Bellatrix Press
an Imprint of Prince and Pauper Press
Springtime had arrived in Elderberry Thicket, in the forms of crocuses, daffodils, and the sunny splashes of yellow forsythia, but the bitter chill of the air sweeping through the valley and cutting through my leather jacket suggests otherwise—it’s still very much winter. My teeth chatter and my knees knock. The front door of the old, yellow Victorian opens.
I suck in a strangled breath. It’s the first time I’ve seen her since I was a little girl.
The High Priestess of the Widow-Tears clan looms above, shielding her purple eyes from Sunna’s bright afternoon sunlight, squinting at the valley below her. Granny Violet looks majestic in her ground-sweeping golden ritual robe. The wind blows and the buttery-soft velvet undulates around her pointy boots. Long tresses of silver and gray frame her round, moon-shaped face. A black sheet is bundled in her arms. Her gaze sweeps over the valley, finally falling on me—her only granddaughter.
The old lady glides down the steep hill toward the valley, the bundled black sheet in her arms trailing behind her like a cape. The mourning doves preening on the hill scatter. I consider doing the same.
Having second thoughts about staying with my grandparents, I look above at my parents—already on their way back home to Tradescantia, like they couldn’t leave fast enough. Mom and Dad zoom off on magical brooms, their feet dangling over the tops of the towering pines surrounding the valley of Elderberry Thicket. I let out a small puff of air. This was their brilliant brainchild, not mine. And as happy as I am to get away from home for a little bit, I’m not sure if this is exactly where I want to be—with my ancient grandparents, two people I hardly know. My grandmother’s footsteps thunder behind me. I whirl around to greet her.
She clutches my shoulders, her sharpened nails digging into my leather jacket. I take a sharp breath inward. My grandfather is further behind her, ambling slowly down the hill.
“We must do this now, as they are flying over the horizon,” she hisses, pointing a gnarled finger into the sky. “Release your past and embrace your new life!” Before I have a chance to protest, she tosses the black sheet over my head, darkening my world.
Well, hello to you too.
My grandfather grumbles to my grandmother, “She just got here, Violet. Give her a break, for crying out loud.” I peek out from under the sheet and say hello to him. He looks exactly how I remember him, except he’s a little grayer now, more wrinkled. The High Priest of the Widow-Tears clan is dressed plainly—unlike his wife—wearing a long-sleeved red and blue flannel tucked into blue trousers. Several buttons are missing from his shirt, and he’s wearing mismatched shoes—one brown, one black.
“This must be done now, Hazel. While we can still see them!” she insists, gesturing toward the sky. He gives up, putting up his hands in mock surrender. “Today, Spring will be reborn,” she adds—her eyes widening with each word.
I clutch the rebirthing sheet at my neck as Granny Violet marks a sacred circle. She digs into the deep pockets of her ritual robe, carefully sprinkling the coarse salt on the ground. I suppose things could be worse; some witches are naked for rebirthing rituals. Yikes.
She fixes the sheet, pulling it back over my head, before guiding me to the center of the magical circle. I kneel before her. The boggy ground is cool and muddy. The thin sheet grows damp under my knees.
“As the earth welcomes new life and beginnings, we welcome our granddaughter. Do you, Spring Widow-Tears, wish to experience your rebirth and step out of the darkness and into the light?” Granny Violet asks, her voice softening.
Untangling myself from the symbolic womb, I emerge and say to my grandmother, “Yes, I wish to experience my rebirth.”
I rise and the sheet falls around my feet. Shielding my eyes from Sunna’s bright afternoon sun—and the coarse salt Granny Violet throws at me—I squint at the gathering crowd.
Where did they all come from? I wonder. Why have they joined us? Puzzled, I look to my grandparents for answers, but they don’t appear bothered.
“Today is the time and now is the hour. Spring will be reborn like a perennial flower. As her parents have set her free, we thank the Goddess. Blessed be!”
“Blessed be,” I echo.
“With blessings from our earth and the life within our soil, you, my lovely granddaughter, are reborn within the eyes of the Gods. Awaken, once more!” She grins and wings more salt at me.
Really? More salt? I close my eyes, raising my arm in defense as I’m pelted by more “blessings from our earth.”
I take a deep calming breath through my nose, inhaling the earthy aroma of Elderberry Thicket—the Widow-Tears clan’s sanctuary neighborhood in Springfield, where our people have fled over the years from the Witch Hunters. It’s nothing like our warm eastern homeland, Tradescantia—a continent hidden from humans by an invisibility spell. Covered with fields of dewy, ever-blooming spiderwort flowers in a palette of vivid blues and purples, Tradescantia is like a post-impressionist painting. Here, on the other hand, it’s cold, and the landscape is muddy.
Granny Violet and Grandpa Hazel take me aside from the others—wherever they came from—leading me up the hill to their home. I let out a yawn. It was a long trip with my parents by broom from Tradescantia.
I peer over my shoulder. In the far distance, I can still see my parents—the wind whipping their hair as they fly back home. Below, the group of mystery witches remain where we left them, watching us somberly as we make our way up the steep, muddy embankment. I step around a melting patch of snow; my boots squelch as I free them from the suck of the mud.
“Should we have said goodbye?” I ask my grandmother. “It seems kinda rude, no?” I fuss with my hair—wild from the wind and staticky from the rebirthing sheet. I tuck it behind my ears and gather it at the nape of my neck, drawing it to one side.
“Why would I say goodbye to you?” Granny Violet purses her thin lips and balls the black sheet up in her hands. Her brow furrows as she concentrates on her footing up the muddy hill. Her pointy, mud-laden boots trudge forward.
“Not to me.” I nod over my shoulder. “To them, obviously.”
Granny Violet stops in her tracks. She turns slowly; her purple eyes narrow, squinting at the valley below us. The black sheet blows in the breeze and trails behind her as something changes in her eyes—perhaps a flash of recognition. Or could it be something else?
With a slight gasp, she releases her grip and the sheet is carried off by the wind. It rolls down the hill like a tumbleweed. She faces me, her eyes wide and fearful. “There’s no one there, my dear,” she says in a rush. “Now come. Let’s go inside and get you settled.”
She hurriedly pulls me along by the elbow; I look over my shoulder. The easterly breeze sweeps through the grass, the tips of the yellowed blades rippling like a lake. The witches morph into a dense, smog-like concentration. An iridescent cloud creeps low across the valley; it reaches for the hill with foggy, tentacle-like fingers…
Realization crashes down on me like a ton of bricks, knocking the wind out of my chest.
They’re all dead…
* * *
New to the series? Check out Winter’s Curse, Season of the Witch Book One!
To avoid spoilers, I’d recommend reading this series in order. Otherwise, yes, these books can standalone.
Bellatrix Press is actively seeking book reviewers for all titles. If you are interested in any of my books, please request here and fill out my contact form.